- Aug 2017
You're repeating the same thing without providing any evidence to support your claims. The fact is that Shankara's hagiographies were composed after the 14th century, which already poses a problem in separating fact from fiction. One of these hagiographies, the Shankara-digvijaya, depicts him traveling throughout the subcontinent, vigorously espousing his philosophical doctrines and defeating his adversaries in debates. Rather than blindly believing the narrative of this hagiography, you should be critically assessing the accuracy of the events depicted therein relative to other types of evidence. I again reiterate my earlier points that there were multiple other factors contributing to the success of Hinduism and the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in the early Medieval era. At the end of the day, multiple streams of evidence show it was the rise of numerous devotional sects (for Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva, etc) and their underlying bhakti ideology that won Hinduism in this era its popular appeal and patronage. This alone contributed significantly more to the decline in the number of lay adherents of Jainism and Buddhism as opposed esoteric philosophical debates between members of Indian intelligentsia.Shankaracharya stalled the drift towards Buddhism ; which had gathered strength due to the conversion of Emperor Ashok to Buddhism. Shankaracharya reunited the two factions among the Hindu seers, those who were the monists being strengthened by his triumphs in the debates with the dualists. He was truly the renaissance man of Hinduism.
Rajeev above mentioned the mathas allegedly established by Shankara. While there was likely some sort of contemporary organization for preserving and propagating his teachings, many historians argue these mathas were established several centuries later and were retroactively attributed to Shankara to aggrandize their prestige. For instance, the Shringeri matha was likely established in the 14th century in the Vijayanagara period and the Kanchi matha is similarly thought to have been established well after Shankara's lifetime. I do not have enough knowledge to address the other factors Rajeev mentioned but they should likewise be critically examined.
It should be noted I am not claiming it is impossible for Shankara to have affected the religious milieu of his time. Historians agree he certainly had some sort of impact, in much the same way that figures like Buddha or Mahavira did in Ancient India. However, we still critically assess the evidence regarding Shankara's life and the achievements attributed to him in much the same manner as is done for the Buddha and Mahavira.
Ultimately, he was certainly one of the more influential thinkers in Hindu thought and it is a matter of subjective preference whether or not you wish to include him in your list. I simply remain skeptical of the greatness conventionally accorded to him by Hindus.